Monday, December 3, 2018

A Lambeau Flop for Packers v. Cardinals

By Eric Goska
Aaron Rodgers failed to complete a pass of 20 or more yards against the Cardinals Sunday.
Rodgers is 0-6 as a starter when he fails to connect on at least one pass of that length in a game.
(photo by Rebecca Goska)
Late-season home games and victory often went hand in hand during the Mike McCarthy era in Green Bay.

Fitting, then, that the second-longest tenured head coach in the history of the franchise should be shown the door after a home loss to an opponent that had no business winning in the wind, cold and slop of Lambeau Field.

Clinging to faint playoff hopes, the Packers hosted the Cardinals Sunday in what should have been a gimme game. Rather than begin to salvage what remained of their season, the Green and Gold quietly melted like a snowball in the Arizona desert, falling 20-17 to their offensively-challenged visitors from the south.

With the loss, Green Bay (4-7-1) assumes the role of spoiler. Should the team fail to perform in that capacity, it will wind up with a losing record for a second consecutive season, something that hasn’t happened to the team in more than 25 years.

Anyone associated with professional football knows success can be fleeting. It’s one reason why long-term success invites respect and admiration.

For 13 seasons, McCarthy’s Packers won more than they lost. His teams went 125-77-2 (.618) during the regular season and 10-8 (.556) in the playoffs beginning in 2006 when he assumed command.

McCarthy’s teams reached the playoffs eight straight seasons (2009-16). The 2010 edition hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy after a 31-25 victory over the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

Only Curly Lambeau (29 seasons) coached the Packers longer than McCarthy.

In a business where the winds of change swirl with little abatement, McCarthy’s teams usually held their own at home during the regular season from mid-November onward. Knowing that makes this loss to the Cardinals all the more difficult to stomach.

Teams entering Lambeau Field as fall begat winter faced long odds. Clubs with at least 10 games under their belts were an unimpressive 7-25-1 (.227) there from 2006 through 2017.

Four of those seven wins were registered by teams with winning records: the 6-5 Jets in 2006, the 8-3 Panthers in 2008, the 10-5 Vikings in 2015 (game date January 3, 2016) and the 11-3 Vikings in 2017. Three of the seven wins were secured by teams with poorer records: the 5-7 Texans in 2008, the 6-8 Steelers in 2013 and the 4-6 Bears in 2015.

Not a single triumph was orchestrated by a team with two or fewer wins. Those organizations were always left out in the cold.

The 2-8 Vikings of 2013 came closest to upsetting that trend. Minnesota forged a 26-26 tie during a stretch when Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn quarterbacked the Packers.

J.K. Scott punted a season-high
seven times at Lambeau Field.
(photo by Rebecca Goska)
Like the Vikings of five years ago, Arizona had but two wins prior to Sunday’s game. The Cardinals (2-9) were locked in a three-way tie with the Raiders and 49ers for the worst record in the league.

Arizona’s head coach, Steven Wilks, is in his first year. The team’s quarterback, Josh Rosen, is a rookie.

Offensively, the Cardinals rank dead last in yards produced. Only the Jets and Bills have a lower rated passing attack.

At kickoff, none of that mattered. Arizona uncorked five second-half plays of more than 20 yards – all on scoring drives – to overtake Green Bay in the final 30 minutes.

Hours later, McCarthy was relieved of his duties. He leaves as did Ray (Scooter) McLean and Lindy Infante as the only Packers head coaches to have lost both their first and last regular-season outings at Lambeau Field. (Green Bay was shut out by the Bears 26-0 in McCarthy’s debut.)

To be clear, McCarthy is not the first coach to have enjoyed late-season success at the historic stadium. He is the most recent.

The Cardinals were the 100th team with at least 10 regular-season games to their credit to have spent a few hours toiling at Lambeau Field. The first 99 did so with less-than-stellar results, posting a 26-71-2 record (.273).

In particular, three Packers coaches made life miserable for those opponents. The three Mikes – Holmgren (15-0), Sherman (16-2) and McCarthy (25-8-1) – accounted for 56 of the Packers’ 71 wins.

Dan Devine (3-1) and Bart Starr (6-5-1) also won more often than they lost. Vince Lombardi (1-1), Phil Bengtson (1-1) and Ray Rhodes (1-1) maintained an even keel.

Forrest Gregg (2-3) and Infante (1-5) had losing records.

As might be surmised, Green Bay fared even better (21-2) when late-season visitors arrived with four or fewer wins. Teams mired in losing were unlikely to taste victory at a venue nicknamed the Frozen Tundra.

Prior to Sunday, only one team with three wins had persevered. With the Packers having already clinched the NFC Central Division, the lowly Steelers (3-9-1) closed out the 1967 regular season with a 24-17 win in Green Bay.

Arizona is the first two-game winner to prevail. For the Green and Gold, this represents a new low.

The Packers, of course, can rebound and post a respectable record at home. Should they defeat the Falcons (4-8) and Lions (4-8), they will finish 6-1-1 which would be their best showing since going undefeated (8-0) in 2014.

Beating a pair of four-game winners at Lambeau Field this late in the season was all but a given in years past. Now, nothing can be taken for granted.

Green Bay has played 100 regular-season games at Lambeau Field against teams with at least 10 games to their credit. Here is a list of those with the poorest records to come away victorious.

Record   Team                  Result          Date
2-9-0      Cardinals             W, 20-17      Dec. 2, 2018
3-9-1      Steelers               W, 24-17      Dec. 17, 1967
4-6-0      Bears                   W, 17-13      Nov. 26, 2015
5-9-0      Lions                   W, 24-17      Dec. 22, 1990
5-7-0      Panthers              W, 33-31      Dec. 12, 1999
5-7-0      Texans                W, 24-21      Dec. 7, 2008
5-6-0      Bears                  W, 16-10      Nov. 28, 1976
5-6-0      Vikings               W, 35-21      Nov. 17, 1991
5-5-0      Colts                   W, 20-13      Nov. 13, 1988

No comments:

Post a Comment